Nimble Storage: It’s All About Convergence

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Amid the soaring capacities and technological advances that have been driving the storage industry, the sector continues to be marked by high costs and maddening complexity.

Nimble Storage, a San Jose, Calif.-based startup, is angling to demystify the landscape with a converged iSCSI solution that pairs enterprises’ primary and backup storage equipment in a single array.

Recently dubbed a “cool vendor” by the technology analysts at Gartner, Nimble blends flash and high-capacity disk in an architecture it calls Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL). Nimble claims its solution can cut restore times and backup windows “from hours to seconds,” and that it carries a price tag as much as 60 percent less than that of rival technologies.

“Even today, primary storage and backup are separate processes with separate systems for hardware and software, and different management regimens,” said Dan Leary, Nimble’s vice president of marketing.

The firm also addresses disaster recovery. Nimble offers a separate array enterprises can deploy to provide for offsite replication optimized for a WAN, touting the low cost and simple setup of the solution. The disaster recovery array has the same management configuration as the storage/backup arrays, and the two are designed to communicate without a hitch.

Nimble touts a novel storage approach that holds a firm’s most commonly accessed data on an SSD, providing a significant performance advantage over standard disks, while still storing all data compressed on high-capacity hard drives.

Nimble Storage is the brainchild of Varun Mehta and Umesh Maheshwari, former executives from NetApp and Data Domain, who wanted to leverage flash to develop a converged storage, backup and recovery solution that would push past the limits of disk drives and tape.

“Flash is not new, but most offerings of the technology are ‘bolted on’ and not integrated into the system,” Leary said. “Nimble Storage has created an architecture that fully integrates flash as part of a system in which flash is reserved for frequently accessed data. [The] full integration also makes it intuitively easy for storage administrators to configure the system to store that data in flash and less frequently accessed data on SATA drives, with a layout optimized to support high performance writes to SATA.”

Nimble currently operates through what Leary describes as a “channel-centric” business model, although it is actively looking to diversify. “We are building a network of value-added resellers eager for a new approach to storage, backup and DR to take to their customers,” he said.

Most recently, Nimble announced the release of the CS210, which it describes as a “lightweight” version of its CS220 and CS240. Nimble bills the 8 TB array, listed at $38,000, as a solution tailored for smaller and midsize enterprises, offering the same feature set as the higher-end products. Nimble unveiled its first CS product last July.

At the same time, Nimble unveiled details of an over-subscribed Series D round of venture funding led by Artis Capital Management in which it raised $25 million.

“Our challenge isn’t in telling our story,” Leary said, explaining that in meetings, prospective customers are quick to seize on Nimble’s value proposition. “Our challenge is getting the attention of new prospects. The storage market is very crowded, and it’s difficult as a new entrant to rise above the noise.”

Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects for more than four years, most recently as the Washington correspondent for, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here


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